A controversial Fringe Festival performance featuring two naked actors engaging in mayonnaise enemas and a sexual act on stage left some audience members in shock while others walked out of the theatre Friday night.
The show, called Hollywood Hen Pit, stars Doug Melnyk and Ian Mozdzen, who are known for their edgy performances, having raised eyebrows in 2011 with their Fringe play Monopoly Man Pit.
This year's performance is about the life of an aging Hollywood starlet, as performed by two nude men.
"What I saw were not one, not two, but three mayonnaise enemas," said Fringe Festival reviewer Michelle Palansky, who was in the audience Friday night.
"By the third time… I was like, you know, this is gratuitous. I do not need to see any more mayonnaise enemas for the rest of my lifetime."
The show, which is completely improvised, also featured oral sex between the two men, to the surprise of many.
"Fellatio was performed," said Palansky. "Not for very long, for a couple of seconds, but definitely performed," she said.
Palansky explains that the sexual act was not planned, it just happened, adding that even the stage manager was surprised.
"That was just in the heat of the moment in the middle of the show," she said. "It was sort of a non-climax. Literally and figuratively."
The Winnipeg police said performing sexual acts on stage is illegal, and Palansky said the actors should have known better.
"You can't be a performer on stage in Winnipeg, or any other city, and not know the laws of the land," said Palansky. "And as far as I know, everyone should know that live sex acts are not allowed on stage period."
Artists say show meant to challenge audience
Doug Melnyk and Ian Mozdzen told CBC News the oral sex in the show was simulated though the enemas were real. The pair said they classify their work as performance art, not theatre, and it is designed to challenge the audience.
"If think if you make art according to what people want you're a shoemaker," Melnyk told CBC News Saturday. "You're trying to figure out what people want and you make it for them. That's not art."
Melnyk describes the performance as "cartoony" creating images for people to think about.
"We're sort of trying to show all the sides of the body and of human actions that people are often embarrassed about or have conflicted feelings about… we're going to show the raw side of things and we're not going to protect people from imagery and that's a better way to get at these issues of deep feeling and deep pain," he added.
Mozdzen agrees, saying the show is intentionally fake. He adds that neither of them are interested in making any money from the performance.
"It is a commercial festival so walkouts are fine. Even if we got shut down tomorrow we'd be fine because we did it and it's done," said Mozdzen.
Officials add age restriction
Fringe Festival officials said there have been no formal complaints about the piece, but the production company and the fest added an age restriction of 18 and older.
The performers said they had a discussion with the festival about the issues after the performance and everyone is satisfied.
"We don’t tolerate anything illegal on stage, or anything that puts the audience at risk," said Chuck McEwen, Fringe executive producer, in a press release.
"When it comes to the content of a show, one of the principles of Fringe Festivals across the country is that artists have artistic control to create and present their work on stage. Whether or not a show has artistic merit is left up to the audience, who choose whether or not to attend," he said.
The show is set to take the stage again Sunday at noon.